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online grading and coursework


What Does The Future Hold For Online Learning? 

Welcome to part 3 of Crowdmark’s series on how the pandemic changed online grading, where we are now, and what’s coming next.

Beginning with the first wave of lockdowns in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic changed many aspects to how the world works and learns. With a hybrid workflow and a user base across North America, Crowdmark has a unique vantage point on the pandemic’s continuing impact on higher education and online learning.  

In the last of this three-part series, we explore the future of remote, hybrid and return to class models, and our thoughts on where the field may move next. 

Online learning: A permanent part of the strategy mix

As lockdowns ended and life resumed more of its typical pace in 2022, Crowdmark began fielding more inquiries from instructors actively looking for grading and assessment tools. In-person learning has once again become a regular part of the classroom experience, but that doesn’t mean that virtual tools have fallen out of the mix.

“By this point, the educators I speak with have already tried a couple of online teaching tools,” says Virginia Woodall, account manager. “They know they need a better solution and are actively looking for the best fit. There’s also shortened evaluation and procurement processes at many institutions for this kind of software compared to what we had before the pandemic.”

Michelle Caers, CEO of Crowdmark, agrees. “Some industries saw a spike in use during the pandemic  and then a massive drop off as people returned to in-person options. Peloton is a good example of this. In contrast, digital education has experienced sustained growth following a rapid adoption period. The pandemic accelerated the digitization of education by at least 10 years, and usage will only continue to grow. Forward-thinking schools are already planning for the next pandemic, and a short- and long-term strategy for online learning is part of that planning.”

Part of the reason for the growing adoption is that the pandemic forced educational institutions to re-evaluate their strategies for learning and meeting student needs. “People want to work from home and have flexibility in their learning options,” says Michelle Caers, CEO. “With this changing environment serving students’ needs is a huge priority. Educators require effective tools in order to provide a learning experience that works for everyone. For example, some of the schools we work with offer a blend of in-person, online and hybrid learning. It creates an opportunity for institutions to offer a tailored experience.”

Picking the class format that works best for student learning

Do you remember the ‘everything you see here is now in your pocket’ meme?

That photo demonstrates the ubiquity of smartphones in the modern era while also showing us how quickly our technology progressed over time. 

In a sense, the pandemic’s effect on online learning was similar. Education shifted for students, instructors and learning institutions as remote, hybrid and in-person classes all become possible within the same semester, and there’s no returning to the previous era.

“Innovation was the one big constant through this period,” observed Michelle Caers. “We see it in class delivery and marking now. In the future, we may move to fully digital assessments that can be completed anywhere with electronic paper and a stylus. What’s important is that we keep human interaction centered within the learning experience.”

Artificial intelligence is likely to play a part in that evolution, as we saw in our earlier series on the rise of chatbot technology.

“It’s interesting how trends circle back in software,” Caers notes. “Pivoting to focus on the online environment was the right decision for Crowdmark in March 2020. Because of recent concerns around artificial intelligence tools like chatbots, however, we’re also seeing demand for paper-based assessments come back into focus to ensure students are actively applying their knowledge.”

Crowdmark: Primarily remote for the foreseeable future for life

Like the instructors and students who use our solution, Crowdmark employees suddenly found themselves doing everything online and glued to their computers for long hours during the pandemic.

“The mental health struggles in those first few months were universal,” says Jamie Gilgin, head software developer. “Like the faculty, students and teachers we work with, we also adjusted to having our loved ones and roommates at home all the time. The wider social isolation and loneliness were a persistent challenge. At the same time, remote work also allowed us to hire talent from across Canada. Crowdmark now has employees from St. John’s to Vancouver.”

“We grew steadily into 2024, more than tripling the team as we grew to meet demand,” Caers agrees. “Our team is small enough that we weren’t widely impacted by larger trends that emerged during the pandemic’s later stages, such as the Great Resignation or Quiet Quitting. We do get together in person periodically to develop things like our product roadmap.

“Crowdmark was built around strong collaborative values,” says Caers. “We model them internally, on projects and when problem solving. It helps to foster that connected feeling that’s so important to strong teamwork.”  

One of the pandemic’s more bizarre lasting effects is the way it froze time for many people.“It’s hard to believe that 2019 was five years ago,” says Caers. “I caught a recent episode of The Morning Show that flashed the show’s characters back to the cusp of the pandemic and all its inherent changes. Watching it immediately brought back my own memories. On some level, it still feels like 2019 was last year, though we’ve all changed and grown.”

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About Crowdmark

Crowdmark is the world’s premiere online grading and analytics platform, allowing educators to evaluate student assessments more effectively and securely than ever before. On average, educators experience up to a 75% productivity gain, providing students with prompt and formative feedback. This significantly enriches the learning and teaching experience for students and educators by transforming assessment into a dialogue for improvement.